Imagining The 2012 London Games

London will host the 2012 Olympic Games, but organizers acknowledge they have big shoes to fill after Beijing. British comedian Matt Kirshen, a finalist on the 2007 season of NBC's Last Comic Standing, says it's going to be impossible to top the ability of a totalitarian regime.

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ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

London will host the next summer games in 2012. And at the closing ceremonies this weekend, the Olympic flag officially passes to Britain. Soccer star David Beckham will be on hand as well as Led Zeppelin guitarist Jimmy Page. But after the spare-no-expense theatrics of these Beijing games, London has some work to do.

And for help imagining what the London organizers might do to raise the bar even higher, we have reached out to British comedian Matt Kirshen. He was a finalist on the 2007 season of NBC's "Last Comic Standing."

Welcome to the program.

Mr. MATT KIRSHEN (Comedian): Hi there. How are you?

SIEGEL: Fine. I should say that you're joining us from Edinburgh in Scotland.

Mr. KIRSHEN: (Speaking in foreign language)

SIEGEL: What do you think run through the minds of the Britain's Olympic organizers as they watched that spectacular Beijing opening ceremony?

Mr. KIRSHEN: I would say you would instantly realize that there's no way on Earth that we're going to top it. I think the expense and the ability of a totalitarian regime so far exceeds anything Britain's going to manage.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: But what then would be, say, the Brit equivalent of someone running around - 2008 drummers. What - how…

Mr. KIRSHEN: It will be horrendous. I mean even the stop that we've got for the changeover. Apparently, David Beckham is going to kick a football off an open top bus. There's no way that's going to look anything but rubbish. Even if you try to kick as well David Beckham, it will fly about 20 feet before landing on the floor with a thud. And I'm pretty sure if it's a British bus driver as well, at that point, he'll stop the bus and refuse to drive on until David Beckham is removed.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KIRSHEN: For hijinks.

SIEGEL: So what do you think should be the symbolic act of receiving the flag?

Mr. KIRSHEN: Well, I think if we've learned nothing else from the Chinese, then we should learn that if you really want pageantry and ceremony done properly, you should take it back to an imperial totalitarian regime. I think Britain should really have a throwback to the 1800s. We should start acting as we used to back when we have an empire. We should, you know, we should rename all the countries what they used to be called when we owned them. And…

SIEGEL: You want to take the Australians back into custody?

Mr. KIRSHEN: Yes, start referring to them all as colonies. It would improve our medal tally as well. I think, you know, the American colonies would do particularly well for the Brits.

SIEGEL: Jamaica, those…

Mr. KIRSHEN: Oh, Jamaica, yeah, the West Indies. The British Caribbean, as it'll now be called again. And Rhodesia and Ceylon, Persia. I think we're going to be fantastic. I think Britain will celebrate the 2012 Olympics with the finest British team that we've ever seen.

SIEGEL: And as for just the pageantry, I'm thinking - I'm trying to think back to Georgian times in England. What kind of a crowd should you have out there in the opening ceremony?

Mr. KIRSHEN: Oh, I think, I think it will be a throwback to a more formal time. I think everyone should be officially introduced by a butler in the entrance for the stadium. Ladies and gentlemen, Mr. and Mrs. France.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KIRSHEN: And then just a formal ball with Eliza Doolittle in the middle. I don't know. I mean, I'm just imagining.

SIEGEL: Shouldn't there be some nod to a grittier, more realistic image of contemporary Britain at the Olympic Games in four years?

Mr. KIRSHEN: Well, that's what's inevitably going to happen because it's going to be designed by a committee. So yeah, we will have to make some exceptions. There'll probably be a little demonstration of hooliganism, a couple of people running around stabbing each other, you know, the usual, littering. There'll be an intentional misleading of the tourists…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KIRSHEN: …in which a taxi driver will take the foreign nations around the long way, around the stadium.

SIEGEL: Or just say - it's more than my job's worth. I won't help you out at all.

Mr. KIRSHEN: Oh, absolutely. There'll probably be a lineup of officials just shrugging…

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KIRSHEN: …just being asked questions there - ah, search me.

SIEGEL: Now, I have heard that the Horse Guards Parade - this is a space just off Whitehall, the center of London, not far from Trafalgar Square or Number 10 Downing Street, for that matter…

Mr. KIRSHEN: Yup.

SIEGEL: …that's going to be where the beach volleyball will be played. It's the venue for beach volleyball in the 2012.

Mr. KIRSHEN: Of course, it is. Beach volleyball looks fantastic in California, you know, its beautiful open beaches and bronzed people in skimpy sports wear playing sports and looking all athletic. Over here, it'll just be a bunch of people mucking about at a sand pit. I'll be impressed if they'll actually get good quality sand as well. It'll probably be a mixture of sands and gravel.

SIEGEL: They'll be…

Mr. KIRSHEN: Have you ever been to British beaches?

SIEGEL: I have, I have, yes.

Mr. KIRSHEN: God have mercy. Have you been down to Brighton?

SIEGEL: I have been to Brighton Beach.

Mr. KIRSHEN: It's not sand at all, it's just stones.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. KIRSHEN: It's rocks and pebbles. It's more like - it's aggregate rather than sand.

SIEGEL: It's not a beach that would give rise to a sport like beach volleyball.

Mr. KIRSHEN: No, you - anyone who went for the ball and had to dive would have to be lacerated. It have to be taken away to be stitched up in between each rounds. There'd be broken bottles and syringes.

To be honest, if it goes well, in a sense, I guess people will be happy. But I think they'd rather have something to moan about. British people, really, are unhappy unless they have something to complain about.

I'm pretty sure the Olympics will give us no end of happiness from that point of view.

(Soundbite of laughter)

SIEGEL: Okay. Well, Matt Kirshen, thank you very much.

Mr. KIRSHEN: Thank you for having me. Thanks.

SIEGEL: It's British comedian Matt Kirshen. He spoke to us from Edinburgh in Scotland. And you can find out more about him at our Web site, npr.org.

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